More MS news articles for Aug 2001

British MS Society Calls for Long-Term Study of Drugs

LONDON (Reuters Health) Aug 08 - The UK Multiple Sclerosis Society proposed a formula on Wednesday that might enable patients to receive therapy, despite a health watchdog's view that MS drugs are not cost effective.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has provisionally concluded that beta interferon and glatiramer acetate should not be paid for by the state-funded National Health Service (NHS).

However, the MS Society said that the Department of Health has now agreed to meet with the society to discuss the issue.

Welcoming the Department's response, society chief executive, Peter Cardy, said: "We have outlined a proposal to [Health Secretary] Alan Milburn which would allow people meeting the criteria for the drugs to receive them while a rigorous scientific study of their routine use is made over a period of years."

A spokesman for the patient group told Reuters Health that one of the problems identified by NICE is that there is considerable uncertainty over which patients benefit from therapy and for how long.

To resolve these doubts, the society proposes that up to 10,000 UK patients who meet the clinical criteria for therapy be prescribed drugs and monitored over a number of years. "We hope this will be seen as constructive," he said.

NICE's appraisal committee has already called on the Department of Health and manufacturers to find a way to secure MS drugs for NHS patients "in a manner which could be considered to be cost effective."

In a document published on the NICE Web site, the committee indicated this would require a significant reduction in the total cost of acquiring the drugs by the NHS in England and Wales. The NICE statement also hinted at the need for more clinical experience, pointing to the "uncertainty surrounding the definition of which patients benefit" from MS drug treatment.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said NICE's provisional recommendation was "extremely disappointing and entirely inappropriate." It added that it was "disingenuous" of NICE to propose price cuts when company profits on medicines sold to the NHS were already strictly regulated.

Copyright © 2001 Reuters Ltd